Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Expendables 3 - review

The Expendables line up features John Rambo, Rocky Balboa, The Terminator, Conan, John Matrix, Ivan Drago, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Martin Riggs, Mad Max, El Mariachi, Blade and, err, Frasier Crane.

What do the action stars made famous by playing these characters have in common?

Sadly it is that in terms of modern day box office, they are expendable.

None of them have been able to generate a box office hit on their own in quite some time and even with their powers combined they still can't generate that much of an audience.

Much of the "plot" of The Expendables 3 can be seen as a reaction to Hollywood's treatment of the action genre (it begins with rescuing Wesley Snipes from prison for "tax evasion", Stallone decides his team is "getting too old for this shit" and replaces them with a bunch of new kids).

The problem with the film is that instead of rallying against the changes, it embraces them.

The first two films were not very good but at least they were unashamed in their attempts to bring back the hardcore, ultra-violent action films of the Eighties and early Nineties where you would kill a man in cold blood then throw out a cool one-liner.

Here the cast recycle and shoehorn in tenuous links to old catchphrases (Arnie shouts "Get to da choppa!") and the (financial) decision to cut the film for a 12A/PG-13 has completely neutered the action sequences.

Back in 1985, at the climax of Commando Arnold Schwarzenegger single-handedly dispatches 81 people in typically bloody Eighties fashion.

During the final shoot out in The Expendables 3, this body count is probably eclipsed but due to the lack of blood and injury detail instead of being an exciting coherent fight scene is turned into a spectacle that is as ridiculous as the scene in Hot Shots Part Deux where a shoot-out keeps a running total of it exceeding the body count from various movies.

This is compounded by an issue that has been growing ever since the first film and this involves minor *spoilers*.

The biggest irony of The Expendables group is that despite the name, none of them have actually been "expended". No wonder the group is so old, Stallone has never had to replace anybody. Even if someone is shot and injured, the audience fully expects them to turn up at the end to share drinks with the crew. There is just no tension or suspense in the fight scenes.

Recent films like The Raid, The Raid 2 and Snowpiercer have show that it is possibly to make quality (if not commercially successful) R-Rated action movies and the action flows so much better when you are not having to cut out blood or breaking limbs every two seconds.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks and Stallone should have known better than to try and reinvent the franchise wheel. Terrible as an action film but worth seeing if only for the moment when Stallone managed to say "I Am The Hague" with a straight face... then again it could just have been the effects of Botox.

2 stars

1 comment:

  1. The characters in the film are somewhat engaging, but the action scenes are almost as incomprehensible as the plot.